Remove Coal from Homes to Reduce Air Pollution in Bishkek, Says UN Report

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by KnowESG

According to the first-ever study of significant air pollution sources and their implications for the city, improving how homes are heated is the most efficient approach to avoid deaths from poor air quality in the Kyrgyz capital.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute made the report "Air Quality in Bishkek: An Assessment of Emission Sources and Roadmap for Supporting Air Quality Management" for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Based on the types of emissions found and when they happened, the study shows that sulphur-rich coal used to heat homes is by far the biggest source of air pollution in the Kyrgyz capital.

A policy roadmap is suggested for the next three years for the housing, transportation, electricity generation, and waste sectors.

According to the estimate, the power plant in Bishkek may be responsible for less than 1% of the ground-level concentrations of dangerous particles called PM2.5 and PM10, in part because its tall chimneys push pollution away from the city. 

70% of Kyrgyz homes are heated with coal, which is why the country has the highest levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of any country. Small particles of pollution in the air can get deep into the lungs, get past the lung barrier, and get into the bloodstream. This can cause heart and lung problems, as well as lung cancer.

Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Resident Representative at the presentation of the report, said: 

“Bishkek needs system-wide action with innovative energy solutions to tackle the pollution challenge and make the switch to clean and affordable heating and transport technologies. The most vulnerable and marginalised people play an important role in changing consumption patterns, and we have this great opportunity to include them in building a more fair and sustainable economy.”

Aidai Kurmanova, Head of UNEP’s Central Asia Office, said: 

"This report equips decision-makers with the strongest scientific basis to date for taking impactful action to tackle air pollution in Bishkek. The solutions at hand will save lives, help tackle the climate crisis and earn savings in the healthcare sector."

During the winter heating season, the Kyrgyz capital is consistently ranked among the top five cities in the world with the most filthy air. The annual mean PM2.5 levels in the city are much higher than all national and international standards, says the report. Between 2010 and 2019, roughly 4100–5000 individuals died prematurely in the Kyrgyz Republic as a result of air pollution, accounting for 12–13% of all annual deaths. Poor air mixing conditions increase the problem in Bishkek.

Source: UNEP

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